Survey of hosts shows ‘positive but patchy’ response
A new snapshot survey of hosts who have opened their doors to Ukrainians explores the benefits and challenges of hosting, and points to some lessons for future government policy.
The survey was undertaken by independent charity Refugees at Home and explores the views of hosts who have worked with the charity and who are also hosting through the government’s Homes for Ukraine schemes. It shows that while for many people hosting has been a positive experience, and most would host again, levels of support from local authorities have been varied, and people had found the sponsorship process difficult and confusing.
Amongst the key findings are:
- 86% of people reported that hosting had provided a practical way of responding to the war in Other benefits to hosts included learning about a new culture (54%), being able to help people navigate a new life in the UK (54%) and connecting with other people (45%). Only 17% of hosts mentioned the thank you payment as one of the benefits.
“The experience of cooking twice the amount every other night and being treated to a meal that I have never eaten before has been quite an eye opening experience, fantastic.”
“Being able to make a real difference to a family in need – and to witness its life-changing effect.”
- Helping guests get established with schools, GPs, benefits etc (42%) and uncertainty about what happens next (37%) were greater challenges for hosts than the fact of sharing their homes with a stranger (33%).
“I had no idea of the amount of paperwork that would be necessary . The form filling online has been staggering. NHS numbers, NI numbers , banks, phones, universal credit , bus passes and school.”
“Homes for Ukraine has not been a helpful scheme. There has been very little information available, particularly in Ukrainian, on how to navigate UK life, benefits etc. Left to local authorities, the availability of this information is patchy.”
“Hosting has been great. But so much harder and difficult to navigate the system to get the family on boarded here. Finding schools, visas, universal credit, has been so difficult and exhausting. Gov system not at all helpful.”
- A quarter of those hosts whose guests were still staying with them said they were looking to move on (25%). It was clear from the survey that levels of support for guests to move on varied widely – 14% said they had had a lot of support, while 39% said they had had no help at
“Appalling response from council. Have complained”.
“There was no onward plan after 6 months, how the family were to get accommodation. I feel quite broken and exhausted by the whole process and the family must feel a lot worse.”
“The local council were extremely helpful and showed willingness to help which was not properly appreciated by my Ukrainian guest.”
“My guests were housed by the Council (to my surprise!)”
“They are unlikely to find anywhere to move on and the local council are barely replying to emails and have not even been able to supply the transcripts of a meeting about moving on housing that happened months ago.”
- Despite the challenges, most people would consider hosting again (58%). However, whereas nearly 9 out of 10 hosts would recommend hosting through Refugees at Home (87%), only around a half (49%) would host through a government scheme such as Homes for
Lauren Scott, Executive Director of Refugees at Home, said: “Following the invasion of Ukraine, the number of hosts on our register skyrocketed from 2000 in 2021 to 12,000 last year. This overwhelmingly generous response demonstrates that hosting can, and should, work as part of the government’s policy towards refugees, wherever they come from. But our survey supports our experience on the ground, that there are some important lessons to be learned for future schemes.
“First, hosting requires support and guidance. Expecting hosts to help their guests obtain their visa, settle in and navigate our complex social services and other systems, as well as sharing their homes, without any back-up or advice is just not realistic. The increasing numbers of Ukrainians presenting as homeless points to a high level of breakdown amongst placements overall. Providing a better framework of support would lead to far fewer of these catastrophic outcomes. At Refugees at Home less than 1% of our Ukrainian placements have failed.
“Second, the picture across the country is hugely varied. Government has basically devolved responsibility for hosting to local authorities, who are all responding in different ways. Some councils provide support and training, with a process for rematching and dealing with safeguarding which they advertise and share, other councils don’t even have contact details on their website. Halving the funding councils receive per guest in 2023 will exacerbate these inconsistencies. It’s incredibly confusing for hosts and guests.
“Third, hosting is only meant to be a temporary solution. It was clear from the outset that Ukrainians could not stay in strangers’ homes for ever and yet in many local authorities there is next to no help for hosts and guests who want to move on. So guests are left in a limbo with no idea of what is going to happen, and without clearer guidance and a more consistent framework from central government no-one can do much about this.
“The government set up Homes for Ukraine under enormous pressure, and it is inevitable that a scheme arranged at such short notice will have flaws. But although the picture is very patchy, our survey demonstrates that, with proper support, hosting works. We believe it should be normalised as part of government policy towards refugees and those seeking asylum, not just for those fleeing Ukraine.”
“The Homes for Ukraine scheme was not properly thought through. It was (understandably) created in haste but dropped like a stone once it was out of the news. As hosts, we feel hugely let down. There is simply no help in enabling our guests to move on, meaning that we had no option but to extend the invite beyond six months, and even a year may not be long enough. The consequence is that we will be very reluctant to respond to future schemes. Some sensible forward planning would have avoided this, and would avoid similar experiences in the future, but I see absolutely no evidence that the government is doing any such thing.”
“I’m aware that there have been lots of negative stories about guests/hosts’ relationships breaking down but we haven’t had any problems so far. However, we are now reaching the point where we would like to have our spare room back so we can offer it to friends and family once again. But we are finding it difficult to broach the subject with our guest, partly because we’re aware that rents in our area are very high and our guest earns a modest salary as a waitress. She’s also studying English at Intermediate level and is taking a computer course. We’re investigating flat share opportunities. We won’t abandon her but wish there could be a viable solution.”
They are a lovely family and we are still in touch. If you have a big enough home, it’s a lovely thing to do.
“We have been fortunate to be hosts to a Ukrainian family and have enjoyed every minute of the journey during which we have assisted them with settling into our community and with navigating the necessary requirements, paperwork and provision of advice so that they can make their own way and their own choices / decisions.”
“If only this level of support were available for all those seeking refuge and asylum in the UK, but the story is sadly very different for so many others from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia and so many other countries where there is conflict and oppression. “